Respect is rarely given by default. In most scenarios, with most people, it has to be earned through the quality and nature of your actions. Different organizations are going to respect different things; for example, an advertising agency might value those who put long hours into their creative work, while a nonprofit might be more concerned with how many donations a person is able to bring in.
But aside from the quality of the work you do and the end results you achieve, there are a handful of steps you can take to earn more respect in almost any corporate environment. Follow these steps and you'll undoubtedly earn more respect from your coworkers, partners, and even your bosses:
Step One: Have a Plan
First, you need to have some sort of plan. Who are you? What's your role in the organization? Where do you want to be in five years? People who don't think about these questions generally exist to show up from 9-5 and collect a paycheck every week. These people don't earn much respect because they don't stand out. Before you start adjusting your habits, you need to decide who you want to be in the workplace. Do you want to be the ambitious go-getter who does whatever it takes to get results? Do you want to be the reliable teammate who's always there to help your coworkers out of a pinch?
Think about the qualities these personalities exhibit (and know that most desirable, respect-worthy positions share similar qualities), and work to exhibit those qualities in your daily interactions. If you want to be known for doing whatever it takes, don't be afraid to put in long hours. If you want to be known for voicing your opinion, speak up at meetings more often. You need a plan and a direction if you want to achieve more respect.
Step Two: Think Things Through
People lose respect when they take a reactive or impulsive approach to anything. Instead, you need to temper your decisions and actions, thinking everything through before moving forward. Before you speak up at the next meeting, think about what you want to say carefully--it could spare you a potentially embarrassing moment. If a situation makes you feel angry, try to calm yourself down for a few minutes before you speak to anybody about it. If you need to make an important decision on a project, think through all the potential ramifications with great care.
The more you think things through, the fewer mistakes you'll make. You'll be less subject to emotional or reactive responses, and you'll appear more poised and more confident. As an added bonus, you'll generally make better decisions all-around, giving you better results to show off in the future.
Step Three: Keep Your Promises
This is a biggie. Whenever you say you'll do something, you need to do it. Your word needs to be bond. The moment you contradict yourself, even if only slightly, you'll instantly lose respect from people. If you contradict your word enough, eventually people will stop respecting or trusting you altogether.
For example, if your boss asks you how long it will take you to finish a report, it might be tempting to promise it will get done by the end of the day. But if there's any hesitation that this will come to fruition, it's better to express that in advance. It's far better to say it might take an extra day up front and end up getting it done on time than it is to promise its delivery by end of day, only to fail to meet that requirement. Never promise something you can't deliver.
Step Four: Make Life Easier for People
This is a general rule, but it's an important one. Whenever you get a chance, make someone's life easier. Instead of asking your boss for direction on a task, see what you can figure out on your own. If a coworker appears overworked, step in to see if there's anything you can do to help. If there's no more coffee in the break room, make some. These actions range from innocuous and barely noticeable to high-profile and memorable, but all of them will have some impact on how people see and think of you. If you're the type of person who always makes others' lives easier, you'll have a lot easier time getting their respect.
Step Five: Be Patient
This may be the most important step, because ignoring it can set you up for failure. It takes a long time to build a reputation, and a long time to earn someone's trust and respect. You can't follow these five steps in an afternoon and expect everyone to start treating you better. Instead, you need to be consistent with these steps for weeks, maybe even months, before you start to see results.
With these five steps, almost anybody in any professional position can work to earn more respect from those around them. Put them into place, and keep them in the back of your mind as you continue excelling at your responsibilities. It may take a week, and it may take many months, but eventually, people will uniformly see you as a valuable addition to the team and a memorable person all-around. At that point, you'll be a subject of not only respect, but admiration. For more insights on how to advance your reputation and career, grab my eBook, Climbing the Corporate Ladder: Career Hacks for Modern Professionals.